Just so you know, this is not about that.
There had been previous attempts at branching out on the newsstand. Earlier in the year Goodman mimicked the successful Reader's Digest format with his own Popular Digest, a collection of condensed and already printed articles, but that experiment ended in failure. Two issues were released, the second 16 months after the first. There is an important comic book connection to Popular Digest because the sub-publisher for the releases was Timely Publications, the very first time Goodman ever used the word Timely and the only non-comics title to do so. The interior sub-title was even "Timely Topics Condensed". The first issue was dated September 1939, one month before the publication of Marvel Comics #1 (Oct/39). So Goodman got both his comics company name/brand and the sub-publishing entity for his comic book debuts from Popular Digest.
The trade magazines of the day covered the launch of Popular Digest in this manner:
Writer's Digest (August, 1939)
Writer's Digest (October, 1939)
Then after the publication of the first issue, the title went on a long hiatus:
Writer's Digest (February, 1940)
Popular Digest is out of the market at present. This was the Red Circle pocket digest magazine.
But wait! There's more! An obvious flop, the second and final issue of Popular Digest appeared 16 months after the first issue, cover dated Jan/41 as Vol 1, #2. Guess what comic book debut appeared on the schedule cover dated Mar/41, published by the sub-publisher Timely Publications, slipping into the spot vacated by Popular Digest and numbered Vol 2, #1? Captain America Comics! With the second issue the sub-publisher became Timely Comics, Inc., so only the first issue of Captain America Comics bears the Timely Publications designation launched by Popular Digest. The long mystery of why Captain America Comics started with Vol 2, #1 has been solved. **
The first issue below was edited by Goodman pulp editor Robert O. Erisman. The second issue was edited by John Richmond (who I've never heard of, before or after, and may in fact be Robert O. Erisman).
Robert O' Erisman put his editorship of this title on his resume`. In 1958, a year after the end of Goodman's pulp line, Erisman placed an ad into Writer's Digest, offering his experience and service to young writers.
Writer's Digest (November, 1958)
But let's go back a bit further. In 1937, Goodman published a digest-sized magazine patterned after Hugo Gernsback's Sexology called Sex Health Magazine. Marginally successful, it lasted into the early 1940's. primarily on a quarterly publishing schedule.
|Vol 1, #1 (Aug/37)|
|Vol 3, #4 (Oct/40) - Postal Publications, Inc.|
|Vol 5, #3 (Oct/42) - Health Publications Company|
Goodman also published in 1939 at least 2 issues of a small digest called Racing Digest and Guide, a handbook to horse racing. Released by Postal Publications, Inc., this entity was previously used only for the first 2 issues of his Marvel Science Stories pulp in 1938.
|Vol 1, #1 (Mar/39)|
This was still not enough. Being a second tier, knock-off type publisher, and wanting to further expand, Martin Goodman looked around for even more trends and formats to copy. Right at this time newsstands were smothered in oversized, cheap paper-covered humor magazines. These rags were a mish-mash of bedsheet Hollywood/celebrity, pin-up/cheesecake and cartoons, and included titles like College Humor (Collegian Press, Inc.), Pic (PicPix, Inc.), and Girls In The News (Bilbara Publishing, Inc.), among others.
Martin Goodman dreamed of getting into the slicks and had an obvious obsession with men's magazines. His future magazine publishing trends proves this out, but right at the very beginning he must have stared at Esquire on the newsstands with lust and envy. Founded in 1933 by David Smart and editor Arnold Gingrich, Esquire was published out of Chicago and parlayed fiction by prominent authors (Ernest Hemingway and Dashiel Hammett were in the first issue), upscale delineators of the female form (George Petty) and extensive higher-end advertising into a cash-cow that went public on the American Stock Exchange in 1937. This enormous success spawned a slew of imitators eager to grab a piece of this action. It's ironic that one of the earlier names for Esquire under consideration was actually Stag.
(When Esquire moved to New York in 1950, an Esquire copywriter named Hugh Hefner stayed behind in Chicago to plan and ultimately launch his own men's magazine, initially titled Stag Party, and then changed to Playboy, after Martin Goodman complained and threatened legal action. The irony of that is Goodman would subsequently attempt to copy Playboy with a revival of the old Victor Fox Esquire clone Swank in 1955, followed by Bachelor in 1956. Those will be a subject of a different future article here.)
The original Esquire was a magnificent magazine. The first issue immediately set the tone for a standard whose banner was carried for decades.
The debut issue featured articles by Ernest Hemingway, Nicholas Murray Butler, Gilbert Seldes, Ring Lardner, Jr., and Chas. Hanson Towne. Fiction was written by John Dos Passos, William McFee, Manuel Komroff, Morley Callaghan, Dashiell Hammett, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Vincent Starrett. Some of these name are 5-star caliber and others not as well known today were nevertheless top in the field of their time.
Sport stars of the day were also writing (or having ghosted) articles by and about heavyweight boxer Gene Tunney, golf pro Bobby Jones and Olympic champion Charley Paddock.
John Groth was the art director and contributed a score of cartoons throughout the issue. There was a 2-page biographical listing that gave capsule biographies of all the contributors.
The paper stock was expensive (a true "slick") and the magazine is very heavy and thick, even though it only comes in at 118 pages.
The great George Petty contributed 2 pin-up cartoons:
It's no surprise that Esquire took off in a hurry and in no time at all a sophisticated cover style became entrenched, giving it a look all its own and immediately distinguishable from the rest of the newsstand riff-raff.
In 1937 Stag finally did appear, but not published by Martin Goodman. The June 1937 issue of Writer's Digest announced the new magazine this way:
Writer's Digest (June, 1937)
Another magazine of that same size which has just appeared on the stands is called Stag. This belongs to the class of Esquire imitators, along with Fawcett’s new monthly For Men – and Men Only. The treatment is snappy in tone, and sometimes smarty. There are 96 pages in the first issue, including short fiction, articles, photographs, and cartoons – mostly with smoking car appeal. The first issue has some big names among its authors. Pay $15 to $25 per article and $10 to $15 per cartoon on publication. Statistics regarding Stag: Address – 570 Seventh Avenue, room 705, Leeds Publishing Company. Arthur Brockman is managing editor. The literary editor is Dagobert D. Runes, connected in the past with Modern Psychologist
With a June/37 cover date and cover unlike that of Esquire, Stag Vol 1, #1 saw print by the Leeds Publishing Corporation and publisher Philip L. Tuchman. Printed on the same slick paper, the debut issue was launched in the smaller stapled digest size, not the larger bedsheet magazine size as Esquire was being published. Inside was fiction by authors including Tess Slesinger, (a writer, screenwriter and member of the New York intellectual scene), sports coverage (Jack Dempsey writes on the Braddock/Louis fight), music, health, theatre and books, as well as the obligatory single page photo of a topless model in one of the leaves of the centerfold. There were even clinical articles on the subjects of petting and snuggling.
The advertisements are lesser-than top slick quality, although not low-rung by any means ... Marcus & Company Jewelers & Stationers (Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street), Colgate toothpaste (called "dental cream"), Fownes leather gloves, and a shaving cream ad on the back cover featuring none other than New York Yankee star Lou Gehrig!
The second issue of Stag appeared cover date Aug/37, this time as a "standard" sized magazine, larger than a digest but smaller than a bedsheet. The August, 1937 issue of Writer's Monthly solicited material this way...
Writer's Monthly (August 1937)
A very nice package! Slick paper, decent up-scale ads, fiction by Langston Hughes and Erskine Caldwell (who contributed to Esquire's first issue), articles including "The Astrology Racket", "Split Personalities" and "The Feminine Influence", painting reproductions by Matisse, more photos, cartoons and sports. There is also a great 2+ page article on Rudolph Dirks Katzenjammer Kids, which I will reproduce below:
The back cover was once again an ad for shaving cream featuring the stars of the day including baseball star Pepper Martin and Welterweight Champion Barney Ross.
Following publication of this second issue, Stag released one last issue cover-dated October and appeared to vanish off the newsstands. The contents page had a blurb... "Because of technical changes, the September and October issues of STAG were combined. Subscriptions will be automatically extended one month."
What the technical issues were is anyone's guess. It's more likely the issue was "sales". This 3rd issue was back to small stapled digest size, probably to save money in the face of plunging sales.
The September issue of the trade magazine Author & Journalist still solicited material with its September, 1937 issue:
Author & Journalist (September 1937)
Stag, 570 7th Ave., New York. (M.) Sophisticated, sports, controversial, fad-suggesting articles, essays, short-stories 2500-4000; verse, fillers, photos, cartoons. F. Hecht, Mng. Ed. 1c or by arrangement, Acc
I've never been able to turn up subsequent issues. The May 1938 issue of Writer's Digest covered the demise this way:
Why did this Esquire clone die? I have one idea. The covers stunk! Just look at them... two issues and the same two similar white silhouetted images of the back of a young woman and .... a stag! At least Esquire featured a worldly cartoon "playboy" on their covers. If there's anything Martin Goodman observed in his already by now near-decade in the publishing world, if there's anything at all he learned at the feet of Hugo Gernsback when he worked the Gernsback account for Eastern Distributing Corporation, it was that covers sell newsstand magazines!!
So very quietly, after the name spent nearly 2 and a half years being idle, Goodman scooped up the unused title Stag and in 1941 released his own version of the title, a Vol 1, #1 (Jan/42) humor digest published by a newly formed sub-publishing company, Stag Publishing Corporation. Goodman punched it up with a Peter Driben cover, a noted good-girl type pin-up artist who was all over the newsstands on girly mags, detective flats and pulps covers, including on several of Goodman's own publications.
*** Never to let a good cover or cover concept go to waste, Goodman incomprehensibly re-used this Peter Driben image at the very same time on a concurrent humor digest Comedy, cover-dated the same Jan/42! He then used it again in altered form in 1948 on the cover of his revived proto-Humorama digest, Gayety #6
Using the sub-heading "the man's home companion" as a counter to Esquire's "a magazine for men", the contents of this Stag digest completely differed in that it was not a slick men's magazine, but instead consisted of proto-Humorama type cartoon material, with a thick pulpy paper and sturdy cover stock. Cartoons and jokes fill the book, artists are the usual suspects of the time...George Wolfe, Courtney Dunkel, Woody Kimbrell, Bill Wenzel, etc., and the topics and gags are primarily girls and the war.
Stag joined two other recently published similar digests Joker and Comedy. Joker would immediately restart as a bedsheet (mentioned above), get 4 issues out and restart again as a digest after the war. Comedy would stop and restart in 1947.
The real surprise in this very first issue of Goodman's Stag is the centerfold where we find a 2-page contribution by Goodman's wife Jean's cousin Stanley Lieber, now going by the pen-name Stan Lee. This approximates the newsstand cover date of Captain America Comics #10, the very last issue produced by Simon & Kirby, and at at exact moment Stan Lee would take over as editor of the Timely Comics line.
Throughout the long publishing of Goodman's 1940's and 1950's non-comics material, Stan Lee would occasionally contribute an article here and there. There'll be more to come.
But this Stag was not an Esquire clone. Goodman still wanted to compete, for once, with the bigger boys and produce an upscale magazine. To explain what happens next we must take a step back and talk about one of Goodman's magazine editors of the time, Joseph Alvin Kugelmass.
The son of Austrian immigrants Moses and Sarah, Joseph Alvin Kugelmass was born on September 25, 1910 in New York City. (His older brother, Dr. Isaac Newton Kugelmass, was a prominent pediatrician in the New York City area, a medical researcher, lecturer and consultant to the City Departments of Health and Hospitals from the 1930's through the 1970's. See "postscript" at the end of this article). He married the former Josephine Slotnick on December 11, 1930. The events of his early life are unknown except for the fact in 1934 he was on the Federal Civil Works Commission (CWA) payroll as "a poet" during the depression.
The Freeport Journal Standard (January 25, 1934)
The New York Times (February 11, 1934)
By 1941 he was working in an editorial capacity for Martin Goodman's girly-humor bedsheet Snap, taking over from Harry Douglas, who helmed the title since its inception in the spring of 1940.
Concurrently he was an associate editor on Goodman's true-crime detective magazines, or at least he was for a while. The September 1941 Writer's Digest carried this notice:
As of September 1941, Goodman already had 3 ongoing true-crime detective magazines: Complete Detective Cases, Amazing Detective Cases and National Detective Cases. Robert E. Levee was the editor on all three. Appearing in 1941 cover dated Sept/41 was Exclusive Detective, the editor E.B. Sherman, which was a pseudonym for Robert Solomon, Martin's brother-in-law, married to his sister Sylvia, and brother to Stan Lee's mother Celia.
Cover dated Jan/42 (but on the stands in the Fall of 1941) was also Expose` Detective, and Vol 1, #1 listing the editor as "Joseph Alvin", our man Joseph Alvin Kugelmass.
The set-up here is Kugelmass is a new editor for Goodman's expanding true-crime magazine line. He's slated to be editor of both, Exclusive Detective and Expose` Detective, while Joseph E. Levee edits the earlier 3, Complete, Amazing and National Detective Cases with Joe Simon as the art director.
What happens next is quite interesting as it appears that editor Kugelmass oversteps his bounds and gets shot down immediately. Goodman's true-crime mags of this period are intense, bloody and gory, with real police crime photos (as well as staged photos). The thrust was sensationalist and nothing new to either Goodman or the industry, as Goodman had one of the goriest lines of shudder pulps in 1938-39, featuring stories and illustrations of ghoulish bondage and torture depravity on par with anything on the stands. In fact, the October 1939 issue of Author & Journalist has Goodman editor Gene Fornshell requesting just that type of material....
In October of 1941, two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor and our entry into a "real" hellish cauldron, Joseph Alvin Kugelmass, in his capacity as editor on two upcoming planned titles, sends notes to the two most read writer's trade publications, Writer's Digest and Author & Journalist, stating that Goodman's magazines do "not" want any more sex, horror, and gore for their true-crime magazines. Let's just say even the editor at Writer's Digest was aghast, Knowing the genre's demands and Goodman's reputation there, he sarcastically exclaimed "Good God!" at the end of the Writer's Digest letter:
- Good God! –Ed.
It's interesting to note that Kugelmass was identifying his company as Postal Publications, Inc., certainly a known Goodman sub-publishing entity, but one that "only" Complete Detective Cases, Goodman's flagship true-crime title, was actually published from at this time.
Immediately, there was a retraction! Head true-crime editor, Robert E. Levee, shot back these responses:
As can be read and interpreted above, the chastised Kugelmass was immediately removed from the true-crime magazines. He's replaced as editor on Expose` Detective after a single issue by E.B. Sherman (Robert Solomon) and put back to his original position, editing Snap, Goodman's first girly/humor bedsheet, starting with this December, 1941 issue. Harry Douglas (creator of Stuporman and the Blue Blaze) moved to take over the editorship of Jest from Martin's younger brother David Goodman, who was drafted.
Martin Goodman still didn't have his Esquire clone, but something was now in the wind. Writer's Digest's December 1941 issue related:
According to the book Men's Adventure Magazines in Postwar America (Taschen, 2008), Kugelmass is identified as a freelance writer who approached Goodman with the idea for an Esquire clone, having the ability to deliver high-end writers and possessing the rights to their stories, with Goodman readily agreeing.
Kugelmass was a staff editor already working for Goodman. Would Goodman fall for such a ploy, with the editor already possibly in their doghouse over the true-crime "no sex and gore" trade journal fiasco?
Whether it was Kugelmass who suggested it to Goodman, or Goodman finally wanting to give Esquire a go, what "did" happen is that Goodman re-used the title of his recently released (and mentioned above) girly/humor digest Stag to front this new magazine. The first issue was Vol 1, #3 (Feb/42), published by the very same Stag Publishing Corporation and seemingly following the numbering of the earlier digest Vol 1, #1 (Jan/42).
The big question is though.... Was there anything in between Vol 1, #1 (Jan) and Vol 1, #3 (Feb)? The months are consecutive (Jan, Feb) so there appears to not have been, and a clerical error simply skipped Vol 1, #2. This discrepancy has bothered me for years as I've been unable to solve it with certainty. If anyone has seen a second digest issue, please contact me. Until someone can show me a Vol 1, #2, I'm going under the assumption it doesn't exist.
The same "clerical error" situation will occur in 1954 in the Goodman romance comic title Love Tales. The book was cancelled with #58 (Aug/52), only to re-start again with #60 (Feb/55), skipping #59 completely. Long unknown as to whether #59 ever actually existed, stats for the unpublished #59 do exist and comparison of story titles and job numbers show the issue ended up in a different concurrent title. So Love Tales #59 does not exist as likely does not Stag Vol 1, #2.
|Stag - Vol 1, #3 (#1) (Feb/42)|
The first issue of Goodman's Esquire clone Stag hit the stands as a superficially impressive, large bedsheet sized magazine (Life Magazine size). The cover by Tony Sarg harkened to Esquire's rich "playboy" covers, even going so far as to frame the painting in a fancy wooden frame. The layout of the cover also mimics Esquire, the difference being Esquire put their contents/contributors on the right, while Stag put theirs on the left. The magazine is printed on faux slick paper, though. It may have appeared to be Esquire quality paper, but it wasn't. It was shiny but thinner. And it has not weathered the years well as Esquire's higher quality paper. 80 years after Esquire's debut issue, the paper is still supple and fresh. Every issue of Stag I've ever seen is glossy, but brittle.
The author line-up is top notch: John Barrymore, Robert Benchley, Jack Benny, Erskine Caldwell, Octavus Roy Cohen, August Derleth, Margaret Fishback, D.H. Johnson, Arthur Kober, Piere Mille, Ogden Nash, E.P. O'Donnell, Pierre van Paassen, Lemuel F. Parton, Frank Sullivan, Raymond G. Swing, Jim Tully, Joseph Vogel, Randolph Weaver, Jerome Weidman, and Leane Zugsmith.
Cartoons were by Henry Boltinoff, Corka, Peter Driben, Courtney Dunkel, Reamer Keller, Wesley Morse, Al Ross, Ben Roth, Kirk Stiles and George Wolfe.
Goodman further saved money by mining the lower tier illustrators of the pulps and comic books to help illustrate some of his pages. Note these folks are not listed on the cover as contributors: George Avison (Al's father), Al Gabriele, Ernie Hart, Bob Kuhn, Norman Saunders, Attilio Sinagra and Raymond Thayer. Al Avison has an inordinate amount of work here.
The ads were middle tier, Sheaffer's pens and Ciro Pefume.
Strangely enough, the contents page listed the editor as Joe Lesly, with George Baxter as "associate" and Mel Barry as "art director". Mel Barry was actually Mel Blum, the hard-of-hearing, long-time art director for the entirety of Martin Goodman's non-comics publications right up to the Atlas implosion of Spring, 1957. Timely comics artist and staffer of the 1940's, Allen Bellman, a friend of Mel Blum, told me here once that...
"Mel Blum was art director of Goodman's magazine line and pulp line. He was later divorced and we would bum around sometimes. We had that in common. Misery loves company, I guess. I remember one time he almost got us killed. We were out and he was falling asleep at the wheel of the car. Anyhow, he had a brother who was a photographer. His name was Barry Blum. Mel told me one time that he occasionally took his brother's name as his last name, as Mel Barry. Maybe he wanted to hide the fact that he was Jewish, I don't know. He also was a weight lifter who could just about get through the door.He wasn't that nice a person but I got along well with him. he was always full of puns and every time he pulled one his staff members would just walk away from him. He moved down here to Boca Raton with his second wife and we used to see each other. I haven't heard from him in years though, and I'm sure he's passed away by now as he was older than I was. He told me himself that he used his brother's name. He was friendly when I saw him at Goodman's after my divorce. I can remember him saying to me, "Allen, straighten up, you are walking with your head down."
Everything looked optimistic, right? Wrong! As soon as the issue hit the stands, complaints immediately poured in from authors who claimed they had not sold their works to editor Joe Lesly, AKA Joseph Alvin Kugelmass, and didn't find out until they saw the actual issue on the stands. What had Kugelmass done? Why did Kugelmass hide his real name for this slick, upscale publication? And where exactly was Joesph Alvin Kugelmass now???
In a letter to the January 1942 issue of Writer's Digest, Robert Solomon notes the removal of Joseph Alvin Kugelmass from his editorial duties on Expose` Detective:
The February 1942 issue of Writer's Digest still did not hint as to what had happened, publishing this entry:
By the very next month the truth was known and details revealed in print. I'm going to use all the actual published newspaper and trade magazine coverage below so you get the actual telling of the story as it unfolded. Quite simply, Kugelmass had scammed everyone. Together with literary agent Edward I. Gruskin, they forged signatures on checks made out to authors published in the debut bedsheet issue of Stag. Gruskin separately was accused of inducing Martin Goodman to make two $300 checks out to himself.
The New York Times (January 29, 1942)
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle; January 29, 1942
The Saratoga Springs Saratogian; January 29, 1942
The Daily Tar Heel (February 14, 1942)
ONE WAY TO DO IT: Slight, bespectacled Joe Lesly, editor of the new monthly Stag magazine, has been accused of defrauding six contributors and a literary agent of $950, stealing and publishing six manuscripts, forging authors' endorsements on six checks and absconding with stories owned by Simda Publishing Corporation. Among accusers are contributors John Kieran, FPA, Robert Benchley, Frank Sullivan, Ogden Nash, Pierre van Paassan and Arthur Kober. Nice Day's work, Lesly.
In his biography My Life in Comics (Titan Books, 2010), Joe Simon mentions Joseph Kugelmass, sort of......
In the 1960's, when I first attempted to reclaim the rights to Captain America, I did a bunch of depositions, and Marvel had Jack Kirby doing diagrams that showed the layout of our space at Timely Comics. During one deposition, a Marvel lawyer pulled out a copy of Kirby's diagram to review it.
"Here's the entrance, here's the door, and here's a desk where Mr. Kugelman (sic) sat," he said.
"That guy didn't work for us," I replied. "He wrote for the crime magazines."
Martin Goodman, who had owned Timely Comics, also published a line of lurid true-crime magazines with names like Complete Detective Cases and National Detective Cases. They featured stories like 'Hell bent for the Hot Seat' and 'Case of the Butchered Divorcee.' Joe Kugelman (sic) used to find our checks and forge the signatures. After Kirby and I left Timely, Martin had Kugelman (sic) imprisoned. He kept writing the stories from prison, though, sending them in under different names.
Marvel's lawyer pointed at the square that represented Kugelman's (sic) desk.
"Oh, Kugelman (sic) wasn't working for you?" he said.
"No, he was working for Martin Goodman," I answered.
Simon's recollection of Kugelmass (as Kugelman) put them in the very same office (Simon was art director on these same magazines) but seemingly missed the fact that Kugelmass was an editor. I have no idea whether Kugelmass was also writing at the time, but no bylines appear with his name, which means nothing of course, he could have been submitting under an assumed name, as Simon said Kugelmass was later doing from prison. Whether that was true, both the writing and the submitting from prison, I have no idea.
Finally, Simon did not appear to know what actually happened. His recollection had Kugelmass forging his name on his (Simon's) checks, and not the larger embezzlement scandal of name authors that actually occurred with regards to Stag.
Martin Goodman made good on all the losses incurred by the Kugelmass embezzlement and warily still committed to the project, proceeded to get a second issue out with new editor Kermit Kahn. Vol 1, #4 was cover dated May/42 and it's a pretty package.
Articles are by Emil Ludwig, Thomas Mann, Louis Sobol, Lemuel F. Parton, Louis Golding and Lou Daugherty.
Fiction by Liam O'Flaherty, Ernest L.Meyer, John Cheever, Edward J. Doherty, Paul Kunasz, Hugh Brooke, Lew Ort, Bernard Wolpert and Alton Kastner. Satire by Laslo Fodor, Boris Aronson, Weare Holbrook, E.F. Abell, Ted Kaghan and Ben Irwin.
Cartoons are the usual subjects: Mike Berry, Henry Boltinoff, Corka, Courtney Dunkel, Reamer Keller, Woody Kimbrell, Alec Smart, Ponce de Leon, Priscilla, Al Ross, Ben Roth, Sandor, Kirk Stiles, Bill Wenzel and George Wolfe.
Illustrations again run the gamut of pulp and comic book names..Peter Driben, Cardwell Higgins, Norman Saunders, Arnold Allen, Ralph Carlson, Wayne Larabee, Joseph Stonehill, George Avison, Al Avison, Al Gabriele, Sam Gilman, Chad Grothkopf, Gus Ricca, Ernie Hart, Harry Douglas, etc.. Chad Grothkopf appears to have been a production artist because he is all over the book drawing cartoons around story and article titles.
Peter Driben paints the cover and Goodman begins to slide into a more pin-up sensibility to newsstand browsers. Inside, the likes of Driben, Cardwell Higgins and as seen last issue, Norman Saunders, will attempt to be Esquire's George Petty.
|Stag Vol 1, #4 (May/42)|
*** As we saw above on Stag #1, Goodman again gets more mileage out of this Peter Driben cover by slightly altering and re-using it again in 1948 on the same revived proto-Humorama digest, Gayety #5
The editorial on the contents page corroborates that Vol 1, #4 is indeed the "second" issue of Stag.
There's a long two and a half page article by Philip Wylie that is not listed on the cover as I suppose he's not considered high brow enough.
The original painting by Cardwell Higgins (courtesy of Heritage Auctions) :
The contents page sports an editorial that explains the recent "trying conditions".
Notice the name above George Daughtry above listed as an "associate" (someone I've never heard of before in a Goodman publication). I wonder if this is one of the infamous Daughtery (or Daughtry) brothers? These brothers were the main paper brokers of the comic book and associated industries. Under strict war-time paper restrictions, it's not impossible to wonder if Martin Goodman cut a deal with George Daughtery for paper for this new magazine of his, offering up a credit (or no-show job) as an "associate" for the privilege? Just speculation and thinking out loud on my part. I have no evidence of this and it possibly/likely is a different person altogether.
The artistic content of this magazine is quite impressive, though. Unfortunately again, artists are "not" mentioned on the contents page. In order of appearance, here are the contributors. Many are double-splash 2-page illustrations.
Cardwell Higgins (cover, p.14)
Chad Grothkopf (p.4-5, 37)
Ralph Carlson (p.6-7, 20-21, 34-35)
Norman Saunders (p.9, 28-29)
Sam Gilman (p.12, 22)
Hank Ketcham (p.13)
George Avison (p.27, 40-41)
Don Rico (p.30)
Arnold Allen (p.32-33, 45)
Al Avison (p.49)
Harry Douglas (p,51, 55)
Al Gabriele (p.52-53)
Finally, two writing names stick out to us. First is Captain Stuart Little on page 4-5. Captain Little was the husband of Bessie Little, future editor of Goodman's non-pulp, non-comics line of confession and film magazines, as well as the future editor of Miss America Magazine. It's been alleged that Stuart Little is the original creator of Patsy Walker. I have not been able to locate the source of that quote or confirm it's veracity.
The other two names are all the same person. Stanley Martin is Stan Lee and both names are used as bylines in two different stories. The earlier version Stag centerfold jokes and these two stories are his earliest forays outside comic books.
Because of damage risk (this paper does not age well at all) I'm only going to show some highlights of the magazine. Missing images unfortunately include 2 different Norman Saunders illustrations. Sorry folks, I'll split the magazine to get them. I've ruined scores of pulps, comics and magazines to get good scans for posterity, but not this time!
Ralph Carlson & Stan Lee (as Stanley Martin)
(note from Doc V.: Peekskill is spelled incorrectly!)
Don Rico & Stan Lee:
There are no "next issue" ads at the end of the magazine. The final time it bears a mention in the trade journals, its future looked grim:
There would be no second issue. Martin Goodman was done with the entire affair. No longer would he strive to compete with the upscale publishers. He would do what he did best, appeal to the least common denominator with a middle ground strive every once in a while.
I have a theory about Male Home Companion. My feeling is that Goodman was so fed up with the entire Kugelmass episode that he wanted to cancel the book immediately, but gave it a second chance with a second Stag issue. When that proved financially untenable, and realizing that he had already committed material for a third issue, rather than go to waste he went back to print with a new title just to burn off the inventory.
There was also another regular-sized magazine published at this same time called Read! which had a cover date of Jan/43 and contents similar to Male Home Companion. I'd wager this was still another way to burn off even more already purchased Stag material left over, filling the magazine out with topical war articles by known Goodman staffers. Both Male Home Companion and Read! only appeared a single time, the latter with a measly 10c cover price.
The contents of Read! was exactly the same type of Male Home Companion. Advertised as "The New Magazine for Everybody", it ended up being the new magazine for nobody. The editor was Ralph Clark, someone I'd never heard before. Melvin D. Blum is the art editor (proving Male Home Companion's Melvin Donald art director was one and the same). Here's a surprise, though. Read! was published by a sub-company called Magazine Management Company, the earliest use of this name I've ever seen. It wasn't until 1947 that Magazine Management Company became the "official" designation for Goodman's overall publishing concerns, at least in the trade magazines......
Notable about Read! is the fact that 2 articles were reprints. (Obvious filler). One from The New York Times Magazine and the other from The Toronto Star Weekly. Both were articles dealing with topical events of the day, mostly the raging world war:
- "Preview of Life in '43" by Leon Henderson (Reprinted from The New York Times Magazine)
- "Birds of a Feather" by Allen D. Rebo (Reprinted from The Toronto Star Weekly)
George Avison: (Al Avison's father)
Following publication, the trade journals covered Read!...
Fully stocked is a euphemism for: "there's not going to be another issue, we already used up our Stag/Male Home Companion inventory."
By the following month, it was official:
So the circle closes, the experiment over. Martin Goodman's attempt to copy Esquire went down in flames and scandal. An embezzlement at the very beginning, two issues of Stag, a hiatus, one issue of Male Home Companion and one issue of Read!. The inventory was used up and Goodman was ready to move on and branch out his Timely comic book line into the humor genre under the helm of former Max Fleischer animation artist Vince Fago.
(For completion's sake, immediately after the demise of Stag / Male Home Companion a Canadian company, Norman Book Company, seemed to swoop up the name and released an untold number of digest-sized issues under the title STAG The Man's Magazine from 1943 (?) through at least 1946. In actuality, this digest could even predate the Goodman demise of Stag / Male Home Companion as the 3 issues I've turned up are Apr/43, Nov-Dec/43 and Vol 3, #17 Jan/46.)
(Even later in United Kingdom, there was a magazine called Stag: Man's Own Magazine that ran from 1946-1948, published by Winter Brothers Press in Birngham.)
But what happened to Joseph Alvin Kugelmass??
A lot. In fact, after fleeing New York, Kugelmass was later arrested in San Antonio, Texas, initially charged with a draft violation, and sentenced on August 25, 1942 to a year and a day in federal prison.
From the July 20, 1942 San Antonio Light newspaper:
After that sentence, on November 19, 1942, Kugelmass pleaded guilty to second degree grand larceny and charges of stealing manuscripts from well-known authors. Finally, on December 23, 1942, Joseph Alvin Kugelmass was sentenced one to two years at Sing Sing prison, to run after his draft violation charge.
The New York Post; (December 23, 1942)
The Philadelphia Enquirer; (December 24, 1942)
The Utica New York Daily Press; (December 24, 1942)
In all honesty, the sentence seems awfully harsh from today's perspective. Adjusted for inflation, his theft comes to roughly only $13,000 in today's dollars. I would think an insistence to make good for the money would have better served everyone involved, especially Kugelmass' family. He was married with a young child. But justice was swift and tough in these war years.
After the war, as the decade drew to a close, Martin Goodman once again tried to launch a men's type magazine. Magazines of this nature had long existed like True and Argosy, featuring mixtures of fact and fiction, but they were part of a smaller newsstand contingent. When Goodman decided he would go the "men's adventure" route, he dredged up his last attempt, Male, this time putting in Stan Lee on as editor.
According to the August 1948 issue of Author & Journalist:
Author & Journalist (September 1948)
After calling for material for the new Stag magazine, which was to have been a poor man’s Esquire, first reported as Male, the Goodman Publications, 350 5th Ave., had to call it off on account of distributor trouble.
Then in mid 1949, the plan resumes. Stan Lee is out of the picture and Bruce Jacobs, a name connected to Goodman's sports magazines, is now inserted as editor. Also, the slant of the book changes. This is no longer an Esquire clone. There will be no fiction. It will instead be a men's adventure magazine.
Back on the magazine front, Goodman also finally did get his Male in 1950 (June) followed by Men (May/52), For Men Only (May/54), Man's World (Nov/55) and other shorter-run titles through the late 1950's and into the 1960's. Editors on this enormously infamous line were Noah Sarlat and Bruce J. Friedman. Numerous later successful authors launched their early writing careers under Goodman's yoke, including The Godfather author Mario Puzo, who wrote and associate edited. Many of these titles continued and slowly transformed both under his son Chip's ownership, and the ownership of others, into first soft-core then hard-core pornographic magazines well into at least the 1980's. But that is beyond the scope of this blog.
After his release from prison, Kugelmass had one more run-in with the law. On January 31, 1949, while seemingly working as a reporter, he was called in to appear in a Passaic, New Jersey on a gambling probe. The results of the probe are unknown.
Below I will trace Joseph Alvin Kugelmass through the years based on an extensive successful journalistic career and coverage of that career in the print media.
In 1945 there's a newspaper reference to him being an editor at "Esky" and working on an article about the "Campbell case". As seen in the clipping below from The Times Recorder of Zanesville, Ohio, the Campbell case concerned the struggle of an innocent man to clear his name.
The Times Recorder (October 11, 1945)
Some thoughts about the above.... "Esky" is the usual nick-name of the magazine Esquire. The "Campbell case" is unknown to me but there was an African American artist named Elmer Simms Campbell who was one of Esquire's top artists from the very first issue, right up through the 1950's. In fact, Campbell created Esquire's cover mascot "Esky", that little man with the mustache! Esquire went to great lengths to hide the fact that one of their top good-girl artists, Campbell, was African-American.
The newspaper clipping above seems to imply that Kugelmass was an editor for Esquire in 1945, something I have not been able to confirm and doubt heavily. Additionally, I cannot confirm whether the "Campbell case" has anything to do with Elmer Simms Campbell, other than the name being a coincidence.
A more likely scenario is that the proposed article concerned a more documented "Campbell case", which according to Wikipedia here:
"The Campbell Case of 1924 involved charges against a British Communist newspaper editor for alleged "incitement to mutiny" caused by his publication of a provacative open letter to members of the military. The later decision of the government of Ramsey MacDonald to suspend prosecution of the case ostensibly due to pressure from backbenchers in his labour Party proved instrumental in bringing down the short-lived first labour government."
I still find it incredibly coincidental that the original Times Recorder blurb mentions "Esky" with a "Campbell", when it was Elmer Simms Campbell who actually created Esky for Esquire in the first place!
In 1946 Kugelmass joined the staff of the Reader's Digest clone, Everybody's Digest, as one of several associate editors with the March 1946 issue.
The May 1946 issue of Writer's Journal printed an article by August L. Stern titled "Rejection Slip Whys, Wherefores". The sub-heading ran "Trials and Tribulations of Manuscripts Told by J. Alvin Kugelmass at Meeting of Catholic Writers Guild".
Here is a bit of the somewhat ironic article that you can read above....
Discussions on the whys and wherefore of rejection slips formed the subject of a lively evening at the monthly meeting of the Catholic Writers Guild of America, at the Waldorf Astoria, New York. Led by J. Alvin Kugelmass, digest magazine editor, who as guest speaker presented a realistic dissertation on the trials and tribulations of manuscripts, the evening was devoted to debunking the omniscience of editors.
Kugelmass, himself an editor, provoked (or should it be inspired?) discussion that yanked the editor from his exalted pedestal with this thought:
"Once in a hundred years, the editor rejects your contribution because it lacks merit. For the rest of the century, his reasons are so complex that he avoids explanations by sending you a formal rejection slip. The common most cause for his regrets is that someone who knows him has gotten in before you on the same topic. Though notoriously inaccessible, the editor has some human habits. He probably has a home, sits around the nearest bar and beats his wife with a decent regularity." ....
In 1946 Kugelmass writes an article on Sing Sing's prison library for The Saturday Review of Literature. The newspaper clipping below references the article.
Kugelmass was promoted to "Sources Editor" with the July 1946 issue of Everybody's Digest. In the December 1946 issue, he pens the article "Atomgrad, USSR: City of Cosmic Death"......
Everybody's Digest (July, 1946)
The article received a lot of coverage in the mainstream press. He's quoted below in several newspaper pieces. (Hmm... I'd beware of those "cosmic" bombs, if I were anyone. Just ask Dr. Reed Richards. He'll tell you.). In reality, the "cosmic bomb" was an early alias for what we later called the "hydrogen bomb".
Brooklyn Daily Eagle (October 28, 1946)
Amarillo Daily News (October 30, 1946)
Altoona Tribune (October 31, 1946)
Esquire (January 1948)
Council Bluffs Nonpareil (August 18, 1948)
In 1950, Kugelmass spent a year in Germany. Writing in The New York Times Magazine, he commented on Nazi book burning and what Germans "now" were reading, with respect to the republishing of banned titles and authors.
The New York Times (July 9, 1950)
The Times' letter page held a mostly contrary opinion of the article:
New York Times (July 30, 1950)
The Bradford Era (August 8, 1950)
Also in the New York Times he ruminated on the miserable state of post-war Germany in 1950, as revealed in a just published photobook German Faces, by Ann Stringer and Henry Ries.
The New York Times (March 5, 1951)
He wrote for a score of the newsstand's magazines including the aforementioned Esquire and Saga. In the early 1950's he authored several books, specializing in biographies. In 1951 he penned a young-reader biography of Louis Braille for the Julian Messner Publishing Company.
It received a lot of praise and coverage in print:
The New York Times (February 25, 1951)
The Argus Record (March 2, 1951)
The New York Times (March 5, 1951)
A film treatment mentioned in the New York Times:
The New York Times (August 3, 1952)
And mentioned again in 1954:
The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle (August 27, 1954):
In 1952 Kugelmass got taken to task by a writer who wondered how he received clearance to work for Stars & Stripes when he was a convicted draft dodger.
The News Tribune (June 24, 1952)
The article "Name-Changing - - And What It gets You! Twenty-Five Who Did It" was published in the Aug/52 issue of Commentary (which I believe is not the Commentary magazine more well known).
Also in 1952, an article written for the Kiwanis Magazine about then Governor of Arkansas Sid McMath, got Kugelmass embroiled in a claim McMath's enemies were out to destroy him.
The October, 1952 debut issue of the men's adventure magazine Real carried a long 8-page expose of the red-light district of Washington, D.C.
Real Vol 1, #1 (October, 1952)
In 1952 he wrote Ralph J. Bunche: Fighter For Peace for Julian Messner Publishing. Bunche was a political scientist and diplomat who received the Nobel peace Prize in 1950, and as seen below in the New York Daily News of May 31, 1949, the U.N. Mediator for Palestine in 1949..
Here is the cropped portion of the back cover that gives a biographical history of Kugelmass' literary career up to that point in 1952:
The New York Times (November 16, 1952)
A newspaper review of the book right after publication:
Daily Independent Journal (February 14, 1953)
Parlaying his closeness to the atomic industry, in 1953 followed a young-reader biography of atomic science pioneer and father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, again for the Julian Messner Publishing Company.
Pottstown Mercury (September 23, 1953)
Kingsport News (November 3, 1953)
The New York Times (January 3, 1954)
In 1953 he also wrote The Jelke Case for Pinnacle Books' "Real Life Crime Series". The story was all over the headlines of the time, a scandalous front-page vice trial of a society playboy (margarine heir Minot "Mikey" Jelke) who pimped for the movers and shakers of both the Hollywood and millionaire set.
Pottstown Mercury (April 20, 1953)
A travelogue of Yuma, Arizona in The New York Times:
The New York Times (February 14, 1954)
Kugelmass and Yuma, Arizona, were the subject of a TV drama in 1955....
The News Journal (December 9, 1955)
The Times (December 9, 1955)
This year he also wrote his final biography, the children's book "Roald Amundsen", a saga about the famed polar explorer (1872-1928). Originally published by Julian Messner, Inc., it was subsequently released by Kingston House.
The back cover gives once again a detailed history of Kugelmass' impressive professional accomplishments, leaving out all of his men's magazines assignments, short of Esquire.
In 1956 Kugelmass won an out of court settlement against the producers of the TV show "You Are There!"
The February 24, 1956 Walter Winchell "On Broadway" column, running in newspapers syndicated across the country, carried this blurb:
1956 Also has him plying his trade in the men's magazine Modern Man. Sandwiched between two bawdy cartoons by pin-up master Bill Ward, Kugelmass pens an article about a British tailor who manufacturers bullet-proof vests.
The aforementioned Bill Ward cartoons....
He wrote about the insurance industry in 1958:
The Florence Morning News (September 22, 1958)
Kugelmass settled in California, and continued to work as a author and journalist, writing on a large range of topics. In 1959, an article of his was turned into a movie by Columbia Pictures. Unbeknownst to Kugelmass, his name was in the credits. The significance of this is that, as we will see to follow down below, he will bring suit against the producers 10 years hence.
The Salt Lake Tribune (April 27, 1959)
The Shamokin News Dispatch (May 12, 1959)
Courier (June, 1959)
In 1959 the article "The Mores of the Crap Table" was published in the June issue of the British magazine Courier, which was also available in the United States. A sample cover (not the exact issue) of the magazine is below.
Working for The San Jose Mercury News, Kugelmass wrote on a controversy concerning our jury system.
The Raleigh Register (August 16, 1966)
Also in 1966 an article how the clergy in Nevada live with Gambling.
The News Journal (December 26, 1966)
The Independent Press-Telegram (Oct 2, 1969)
In 1969, Kugelmass brought suit against Columbia Pictures, Sing Brothers Producers and Sabre Films, Ltd., of London, the producers of the earlier movie "Two-Headed Spy", claiming it was based on an article he wrote in 1949.
The Independent press-Telegram (October 18, 1969)
Miscellaneous bylines in 1970.... An article about blind travelers:
San Bernardino County Sun (January 25, 1970)
More politics. The French political scene:
The Oil City Derrick (May 13, 1970)
The mining industry:
The Ukiah Daily Journal (December 17, 1970)
Quoted in the Catholic newspaper The Voice for the March 31, 1972 edition on page 7 in an article dealing with the morality of abortion. The context of this quote is unknown to me but ironically, it ended up appearing in print 20 days after Kugelmass' death.
Joesph Alvin Kugelmass passed at the age of 61 on March 11, 1972 in Santa Clara, California. He is definitely someone I'd loved to have known and been able to speak to, a man whose life had both highs and lows yet forged an extensive journalistic career to improve the public's welfare, promoting tolerance and social causes.
The New York Times (March 13, 1972)
The Holland Evening Sentinel (March 13, 1972)
Traverse City Record Eagle (March 13, 1972)
Kugalmass' brother, the esteemed Yale trained scientist, researcher/author/lecturer/physician and clinical pediatrician, Dr. Isaac Newton Kugelmass, is found throughout the published medical literature and print media from the 1920's through the early 1970's. While not the focus of this article, I did discover several interesting items I want to mention, some of which intersect with my own profession, dentistry.
Dr. Isaac Newton Kugelmass (1896-1979) received his undergraduate degree in 1917 from The College of the City of New York. From there he received a Masters Degree in Chemistry from Howard College (now Samford University), a Ph.D from John Hopkins University, and his M.D. Degree from Yale University in 1925. In addition he received a special Doctor in Physiological Science degree from the University of Brussels, Belgium.
Isaac was the oldest child (b.1896) of Lemberg, Austrian immigrant parents Moses and Sara Kugelmass, and their only child born in Europe. Following Isaac came Ida (1899), Nathaniel (b.1906), Bertha (b.1908) and Joseph (b.1910).
In December of 1932, Dr. I. Kugelmass lectured at The Greater New York Dental Meeting at the Hotel Pennsylvania (a yearly 5-day gathering that continues to this day as The Greater New York Dental Meeting at the Jacob Javits Center), echoing the then ignorance of the dental profession as to what actually caused tooth decay in the human population.
The New York Times (December 7, 1932)
In December of 1949, at the same yearly gathering of the world's largest dental meeting, now at the Statler Hotel in Manhattan, Dr. I. Kugelmass participated in a lecture concerning the affects of common childhood habits and the subsequent dental problems resulting from those habits. In a discussion of the problem of "thumbsucking", in addition to commentary from a dentist and a psychiatrist, pediatrician Kugelmass ventured his opinion that if thumbsucking reached beyond the age of 2, it was considered the child was maladjusted. Additionally, if the habit had not been discontinued by the age of 5, psychiatric intervention was the recommended course of action. As silly as this notion sounds today, this was a common opinion of the medical community of the time (and historically interesting to me, as a practicing dentist myself). (From The New York Times, December 5, 1949)
In 1954, Dr. I. Kugelmass publishes "Management of Mental Deficiency in Children", a book well out-dated by today's sensibilities with respect to diagnosis and treatment modalities, so much so that just reading the review below begs astonishment.
Yet the book's dedication is poignantly supportive of his patients' maladies and humanity's responsibility to help these young individuals..... "Dedicated to the inalienable right of every child to the full development of his physical, mental, emotional and social potentialities and, therefore, to the inherent right to demand of mankind whatever he needs to supplement his own efforts."
Kugelmass, whose credentials are quite impressive, is convinced that intelligence as a whole was in decline as the 20th century progressed and that mental disorders were on the rise as a corollary, particularly in children. For reasons he gives no answers, only statistical and clinical speculation. He uses the archaic (but in common practice) intelligence terminology used by psychologists in the earlier part of the century (idiots, imbeciles and morons) as a measure of "retardation". These terms have been out of clinical use for nearly 60 years now.
Such a scale of "mental deficiency", as understood primarily 60 to 100 years ago, can be shown by the following startling graphic.... (Taken from "Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity", Harry Bruinius, © 2006, 2007)
In spite of its dated science, the book is a tour-de-force textbook on childhood cognitive development and juvenile mental aberrations, written by one of the most respected (if not the most respected) researchers and clinicians in the field at that time.
The New York Times (October 10, 1954)
Mental deficiency testing was often used as a reason for forced sterilization in the eugenics movement in the early part of the 20th century. The following quotes show that Dr. I. Kugelmass was seemingly in the camp of active sterilization of children with mental disorders. He admits this would do little to stem the tide of the "mentally defective" as by his statistics only 10% come from "defective parents". I will quote from the final paragraphs of the book, on the topic of sterilization, pages 300-301:
"A severe ament should be made incapable of reproduction because of the danger of sexual attack in the case of the irresponsible male or of sexual submission in the case of the physically mature but mentally defective female. A severe ament is unable to undertake the responsibility of rearing a family. Effective segregation during the reproductive period is impossible, but surgical sterilization in the case of hereditary amentia is indispensable in the complete program of social care of the mentally defective."
"Sterilization has been advocated as a preventative procedure in reducing the incidence of mental deficiency. Even if every defective were sterilized, there would be little reduction in mental deficiency. After all, defectives come through parents, not from them. Only 10 percent of the aments are offspring of defective parents. Consequently universal sterilization of defectives would only decrease the incidence by 10 percent. The real source of mental deficiency is psychopathic stock acting as carriers. We have no means of detecting psychopathic genes even though the criteria of psychopathic disorders are clear-cut. Even if a defect were stamped out completely the alteration of the gene which originally produced it may happen again and again. Indeed, the effect would keep on re-appearing by mutation."
A lot of things come to mind from the above quotes. Most importantly to me is the only rudimentary understanding of the science of genetics that the medical community possessed. They stretched the boundaries of their limited knowledge looking for answers, reasons and treatments within the context of the times.
Below, Dr. I. Kugelmass testifies that he advised unsuccessfully to have a "mentally deficient" 16 year-old boy sterilized, before the boy was ultimately tragically killed by his father in a "mercy killing".
The New York Times (May 10, 1939)
The very sad aspect of reading all these case studies from the past is that much of what the psychologists, psychiatrists and pediatricians of the time were measuring in terms of mental deficiencies in children, today are likely categorized under the broad banner of autism spectrum disorders. Thankfully, we've come a long way towards proper diagnosis and effective treatments and away from the barbaric therapies of sterilization and institutionalization.
Finally, Dr. Isaac Newton Kugelmass ran into unfortunate problems of his own at the end of his professional career, having his license revoked in 1978 for undetermined reasons. The likely scenario here possibly being the frailties of advanced age, as he was 82 at the time of the revocation, and he passed away the following year. From first hand experience, I can vouch that physicians and dentists of that generation had a mindset in which they generally worked into the grave, refusing to retire until health and unfortunately, competence, become an unavoidable issue.
The New York Times (December 2, 1978)
Dr. Isaac Newton Kugelmass died on August 8, 1979.
The New York Times (August 12, 1979)
- Goodman's first use of "Timely" was brought to my attention by Barry Pearl, author of The Ultimate Marvel Reference Project 1961-1977.
- All magazine images scanned from the author's collection (Jan/41 Comedy digest image supplied by my pal Frank Motler).
- All trade journal data taken from the author's own copies
- Newspaper articles sourced from extensive online digital newspaper archives
- Kugelmass family information came from the extensive research of scholar Janet Wasserman (http://www.janetwasserman.com/)